des·​per·​ate | \ ˈde-sp(ə-)rət How to pronounce desperate (audio) , -spərt \

Definition of desperate

1a : having lost hope a desperate spirit crying for relief
b : giving no ground for hope the outlook was desperate
2a : moved by despair or utter loss of hope victims made desperate by abuse
b : involving or employing extreme measures in an attempt to escape defeat or frustration made a desperate leap for the rope
3 : suffering extreme need or anxiety desperate for money desperate to escape celebrities desperate for attention
4 : involving extreme danger or possible disaster a desperate situation
5 : of extreme intensity … a desperate languor descended heavily upon her, and she slept …— Elinor Wylie

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Other Words from desperate

desperateness noun

Synonyms & Antonyms for desperate



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Choose the Right Synonym for desperate

despondent, despairing, desperate, hopeless mean having lost all or nearly all hope. despondent implies a deep dejection arising from a conviction of the uselessness of further effort. despondent about yet another rejection despairing suggests the slipping away of all hope and often despondency. despairing appeals for the return of the kidnapped child desperate implies despair that prompts reckless action or violence in the face of defeat or frustration. one last desperate attempt to turn the tide of battle hopeless suggests despair and the cessation of effort or resistance and often implies acceptance or resignation. the situation of the trapped miners is hopeless

Examples of desperate in a Sentence

The collapse of her business had made her desperate. As the supply of food ran out, people became desperate. We could hear their desperate cries for help. a desperate struggle to defeat the enemy He made a desperate bid to save his job. They made one last desperate attempt to fight their way out.
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Recent Examples on the Web Rashmi Kumar, a New Delhi homemaker, spent her Sunday scouring Twitter, posting desperate pleas for an oxygen cylinder for her critically ill father. Sheikh Saaliq,, "SOS messages, open-air crematories, panic as coronavirus breaks India’s health system: ‘Please send oxygen to us’," 26 Apr. 2021 This weighs especially heavily on undocumented immigrants, many of whom lost nannying jobs early in the pandemic and have been facing increasingly desperate financial circumstances. NBC News, "Nannies look back on a tumultuous year, from family moves to remote schooling to lost wages," 9 Apr. 2021 After months of increasingly desperate pleas for international action on Ethiopia, led by senior United Nations and European Union officials, the pressure appears to be producing results. New York Times, "‘They Told Us Not to Resist’: Sexual Violence Pervades Ethiopia’s War," 1 Apr. 2021 Prosecutors will argue that Chauvin used excessive force and ignored Floyd's desperate pleas. Paul Best, Fox News, "Who is Matthew Frank? What to know about Derek Chauvin trial prosecutor," 29 Mar. 2021 But where there has been great need, Angelenos have stepped up to help feed their neighbors, some of whom have been pushed into desperate circumstances for the first time and many others who have long struggled to exist along the margins. Los Angeles Times, "Where there is great need, mutual aid groups feed L.A.," 17 Mar. 2021 Although asylum-seekers on the southern border may be fleeing desperate circumstances, most will not meet the standard for being granted asylum. The Economist, "Joe Biden faces a humanitarian crisis at the southern border," 16 Mar. 2021 Schools are so desperate to entice students that many schools are turning to tuition breaks. Fortune, "‘25% of colleges could go out of business’: Chegg CEO says the pandemic is speeding up higher education’s reckoning," 9 Mar. 2021 In particular, music has been a vehicle for building awareness of grassroots movements, often carrying desperate pleas or enraged battle cries across the airwaves. The Salt Lake Tribune, "George Floyd’s brother joins protest anthem album project," 7 Mar. 2021

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'desperate.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of desperate

15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

History and Etymology for desperate

Latin desperatus, past participle of desperare — see despair entry 2

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Time Traveler for desperate

Time Traveler

The first known use of desperate was in the 15th century

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Statistics for desperate

Last Updated

1 May 2021

Cite this Entry

“Desperate.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 7 May. 2021.

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More Definitions for desperate



English Language Learners Definition of desperate

: very sad and upset because of having little or no hope : feeling or showing despair
: very bad or difficult to deal with
: done with all of your strength or energy and with little hope of succeeding


des·​per·​ate | \ ˈde-spə-rət How to pronounce desperate (audio) , -sprət \

Kids Definition of desperate

1 : very sad and worried and with little or no hope People became desperate for food.
2 : showing great worry and loss of hope a desperate call for help
3 : giving little reason to hope : causing despair a desperate situation
4 : reckless because of despair : rash He made a desperate attempt to escape.
5 : very severe The injury is in desperate need of attention.

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Comments on desperate

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